Saturday, September 29, 2012

My favorite things this weekend

1. Matzoh ball soup (made with love by Joe)
2. Fantastic lesson
3. Violetta is my home girl. I AM Violetta...minus the courtesan part, and hopefully the tuberculosis.
4. Time with my dear Ms. Alex in NYC
5. Finally: my birthday treat...a salted caramel bacon cupcake from Hamilton far the best dessert in Baltimore.
6. Looking forward to...Anna Bolena at WNO this week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why this Monday isn't so bad

- Because I made lasagna last night.
Okay, well it was actually vegetarian skillet lasagna, but nearly as wonderful as the time-consuming, labor-intensive, hundred-step real thing.  And by eating my salad first, I was able to keep myself from having seconds...#trickyourself

- Because the Ravens pulled it off.
I have often said that I am a football fan mostly because I love my husband and value my marriage, and it is just easier that way.   :)  Also, I find that knowing a little something about what is going on with sports gives me something to connect about with almost anyone.  And I have to say the Baltimore sports teams have pushed morale in this city over the top.  Its great to feel that people are feeling proud to live here in some small way.

- Because my birthday is tomorrow.
Now I know that it falls at a rather inopportune time.  You know, it being Yom Kippur and all, when celebrating is just not on the menu.  But at least I know everyone will be extra nice to me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Questions to ask yourself this Fall

1. What could I accomplish before Thanksgiving that I've been putting off?
Wouldn't it feel just remarkably great to get that website started?  Or get those emails sent out to announce all the great things you're doing?  Or polish those arias and sing them through for a few friends to get them set for auditions?  Make a list, and reward yourself in a small way every time you cross something off.  A bottle of wine or a manicure maybe?  Or a pair of shoes?  Even if they're from Payless, a new pair of shoes is truly a reward.  Getting things done is worth celebrating.

2. How could I better prioritize my time so that I can get everything done AND have time to spend with people I care about?
Sometimes I get so bogged down in making sure I get to work, get dinner made, practice, do the laundry, go to yoga, go to rehearsal... that I forget how good it makes me feel to spend an evening, or even a lunch with a friend I really love and trust.  It just generally reminds me that life is worth living.
Could I get up earlier for the 7 am yoga class so that my evening is more free?  Could I keep up with the laundry better so that I only have to do one load at a time, and don't wait for it to become a disaster of epic proportions?  Could I spend a day making lots of food and freezing it so that I have tons ready to go without having lots of prep time, leaving me free to have a fun happy hour with a friend, and still come home and pull off an awesome meal?  It's important to remember that spending time with loving, supportive people is one of the very best things I can do for my physical and psychological health!!! No joke...I'm sure there are studies out there...

3. What learning opportunities are available to me of which I have not been taking full advantage? 
Is there a free museum down the street you haven't been to lately?  I know there is one in my neighborhood that I don't visit nearly enough.  Each time I go I am so glad I did.  Are there cheap or free theater, opera, symphony or dance tickets available when I am free that I don't jump at the chance to snap up?  Am I supporting friends and their performances as much as I can?  Am I going to every masterclass, every coaching, every lesson I can possibly afford? Am I watching the Met performances on PBS?  (The Ring was a huge education for me, and I didn't even watch all of it!  I wish I had)

4. Am I giving compliments when I see something worth complimenting?
How many times do we each feel we are accomplishing things and doing things that feel huge to us, but that everyone around us seems not to even notice?  I can't even count the number of times I've been impressed with someone and been too embarrassed or awkward to verbalize it.  Which is so dumb, because i can think of so many times that I've gotten a two-word acknowledgement from someone I've respected and it's made my entire day.  It costs me nothing to say something uplifting to someone, and who knows, if that's the energy I'm putting out, I just might get more of it back.

5. Am I wasting time with people who do not respect me, uplift me, or do not seem interested in working on a relationship by making time and effort for it?
This goes for friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, coaches, and pretty much anyone you are investing in that doesn't invest in you.  Have you spent love, time and energy on someone who isn't seeming really that interested in reciprocating?  It's time to start the slow, civil fade out so that you can spend that time on another person who really is there for you.  You're a singer-- you have enough to take up your time, sap your energy, and make you feel weird.

6. Am I a martyr? 
"There is nothing noble in failing to discover and cultivate your pleasures." -- Mireille Guiliano
Don't feel a bit guilty about spending the evening reading.  Don't feel bad about changing your nail polish every three days like I do, or going for long walks that mysteriously end up at a frozen yogurt place.  It's called mental health, people, and it's a good thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Being lighter

Because my throat is still recovering from the twenty hours of singing that is Rosh Hashanah, I haven't practiced in the past day or so and therefore have no significant break-throughs or experiences of interest to recount.  So I thought I would talk about something else for a change.

My weight.

I know, you're all just thrilled that someone else is writing about this.  Just what no one wants to read about.  I don't blame you.  I change the channel when that horrible doctor on the Today show starts to talk about how morbidly obese we all are and how we eat everything wrong and how studies are showing that we're all killing ourselves.  And then I scream a few choice words at the TV that basically amount to: "I know I'm dying, everyone is dying!  God, can't I have ten minutes of fun while I'm still alive???? And that does not include lettuce!  and/or biking ten miles a day!!"

I think the negative focus on how much we all suck is actually feeding into whatever perceived problem we may have.  In other words, I think we are completely missing the point.  Because when some one gives me negative feedback and I feel bad, what do I want to do?  Make mac and cheese and get McDonald's french fries.

It all started when I decided I was going to start holding myself to a higher standard in all aspects of my life, in relationships, behavior, responses to emails, eating better food, at work, everything.  Back in February, I decided I wanted to lose ten pounds for my show.  And I did.  Well...okay, I lost nine by opening, but I made it to ten the next week.  It was really horrible at times, especially when you realize how many calories drinks are, and when you realize you can't just eat everything you want that happens to be in front of your face. But it amazed me that it soon became much easier because my stomach stopped needing so much food to feel full, and things like salad and chicken started seeming more appealing by way of habit.  It didn't take me long to realize that the self-righteous aspects of my personality really enjoyed being able to say that I had had a really healthy lunch.  I also started to be able to hear the little voice of my better self telling me that I was full, and that the additional serving of pasta would only make me feel bad, instead of satisfied.   The truth is, I didn't change what I ate at all, I just started paying attention and being honest with myself about how much I really should be eating if I want to lose weight.  I used to soothe myself by saying that I was disciplined about everything else, and I just eat what I want and let my body decide what size it is supposed to be.  But I always felt bad when my pants were tight.

And by putting myself through the unhappy moments of feeling a little hungry for the first month (though I had eaten plenty to sustain myself), I was able to start feeling good about being able to make a real positive change for myself.  When your clothes start to get too big and it is something you have put your mind to doing and it happens, you feel empowered.    Since I love clothes and fashion so much, it was absolutely the most exciting thing ever to feel like skinny jeans weren't out of the question for me, and to feel confident not only in my voice, but in my appearance when I sang an audition.  The feeling of power that it gave me carried over into so many aspects of my life.

I've been reading French Women Don't Get Fat, which appeals to me because it embraces a reasonable lifestyle, and the idea of listening more closely to our bodies and what they need, versus following a diet plan.   It is really about making a decision to enjoy instead of overdo.  Diets have always made me nervous because they are unnatural.  They work for a few months and then become impossible to keep up.  What I need is a real change in perspective, and something that I can stick to for the rest of my life, and not a regimen that makes me want to kill myself and leaves me feeling deprived.

I admit I have always hated was exercizing-- at least the kind that involves a gym.  But I do walking and yoga, primarily because they soothe my mind at the same time as I am burning a few calories.  So I walk and go to yoga when I have the time.  One thing I especially enjoy about having the chance to get a walk in is that I can indulge a bit more that day.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I hope that maybe it will encourage some of you to just go for it-- it will be hard, but its so worth it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday finally came

My goodness gracious!  What just happened?  I think it's called a record twenty hours in the synagogue for my Rosh Hashanah gig.

My head is bloody, but unbowed. (I didn't make that up...Henley wrote it.)

Here I sit, at a desk, with jeans on, my hair down, a set of vocal cords that probably, upon closer inspection (I think they call it scoping now:), resemble ground meat.  And I have a pounding head ache. Tomorrow I'm getting a crown put on my tooth.  So I have lots to look forward to.

But in my very immediate future is Thai food and an evening of being QUIET.  So I'll be okay.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Morning

Today's drug of choice:  Rachmaninoff's Vespers.  Especially III. Blazhen Muzh.  So good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On having to be perfect

I'm in the midst of rehearsing for a choral gig.  You know the challenges with choral gigs.  Number one being blending (i.e. rarely getting to sing full out and needing to sing off our voices).  Number two being the sopranos usually have to sing in the passagio all the time.  Number three being, well, rehearsing after a long and rather taxing day of work.  But things are going along just fine last night, they really were, until after two hours of singing, I had to sing this solo line thats high and soft.

I did everything wrong.  I was sitting down, couldn't get my breath (duh, I should have stood up).  I over covered and tried to be overly precious and pianissimo.  And guess what?  I was flat, AND I screwed up the words because I was so concerned with getting back in tune that I forgot to take a breath in the right place.

It was really embarrassing.  There are a lot of accomplished singers in this choir who undoubtedly noticed.  I realize the importance of being on point vocally every single we have to sing in front of absolutely anyone-- I always warm up, I practice the solo lines I have, I try to be as prepared as possible.  Which is why I just felt really terrible about my lackluster showing.  In that moment, isn't it just excruciatingly painful to have to sit there and literally hold your mouth shut so that hundreds of excuses and explanations for why you were bad don't come flying out?  I made a horrible face and that was unprofessional enough.

It was just a terrible way to end the rehearsal and I went straight home and practice the line about 20 times-- all of which were GREAT.  And then I was even more pissed off.  How silly.  Why couldn't I sing it like that when it counted???  Sometimes I feel really sorry for Joe because when I get like this I am a real joy (*sarcasm) to be around.

So I acted like a petulant child for a few minutes and bemoaned myself.  Then Joe said something that made sense.

"It was a rehearsal.  The performance is what counts."

True.  And I still have fourish days to get this to be so second nature that it couldn't possibly go wrong.

Why am I so supportive and understanding when other singers are less than perfect, and don't extend the same mercy to myself?

Monday, September 10, 2012


I just found out that Mozart's Mass in C minor makes Mondays infinitely more bearable.  And if it is the Kiri te Kanawa recording, its powers will be that much more magical.  No, seriously.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Conversations with the organist

Things I wanted to say and didn't:

1.  I was singing for four hours straight yesterday evening, mostly in the passagio.  Yes, it's called the High Holidays.  It's begun.  And for some reason it usually coincides with the longest and most difficult anthems at church.

2. When I ask if we can up the tempo it's because this anthem is no less than nine pages of screaming mostly in the passagio, and the faster we get through it the better off everyone will be. Including the congregation.  Especially the congregation.

3.  I am exhausted, and being nice is awfully difficult. But I'm trying to err on the side of keeping my mouth shut.

4.  I have four more hours of rehearsal this afternoon, and my immediate vocal future looks bleak, but it will be bleaker if we don't take this three to twelve clicks faster.  But I'll take what I can get.

Things I did say:

1.  Yes, I actually did give you the full three beats. 

2. Oh my this is a long one, isn't it?

3.  What would you say to speeding this up a few clicks here?  You'll follow me? Oh, lovely, alright then.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Fabulous Friday

Umm dear readers...forgive me, but if I am not mistaken: WE MADE IT.


And it's the first full day of Fashion Week.  In Baltimore, of course, we're happy if we have clothes without bullet holes in them.  But I have certainly been enjoying the tweets, blogs, instagrams, pins, etc. coming from all these marvelous events in New York City.

Now, if only I were as current on world events.

In other news, wowie did I love my coaching with Ms. Shrut!  What a wealth of knowledge and I very much appreciated her candor couched in kindness, passion for the music and genuine interest in helping me to sound my best.  Most importantly, she helped to confirm for me what I think I may have always suspected about myself:  I was singing the wrong rep.  But now I'm singing the right rep.

What a wonder it is to sing things that are right for me!  I never thought I could feel this good about what I have to offer.  And certainly I should trust my own instincts more, but sometimes you need to have things confirmed by respected professionals just to feel absolutely confident.   I have this horrible phobia of having one of those major disasters in self-awareness and judgement like the girl who was barely a lyric sang Du bist die lenz at in the Met competition in Charlotte in which I participated two years ago.  You know how it is-- you see Du bist die lenz on the program and you're definitely not going to be taking your potty break when you know that one's coming up.  I think we all live in hope that we will be there when the next great Leonora or Brunnhilde, or you name the huge voiced character, is discovered.  And then the person sings and you realize it was kind of just a crisis of no one telling her that she'd be more right for, perhaps, say Quando m'en vo...

None of us want to be that person.

Did I mention that I don't think I'm that person any more?

Let the partying ensue.  Poor the champagne.  Let's dance on the frickin' tables.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I'm excited for tonight because of a couple things.  First, I'm having a coaching with Arlene Shrut!  I've never worked with her before, but have heard so many good things.  I rarely name names around here, but I figured some of you may have worked with her in the past, and could understand my excitement!  The thing about a first time coaching is that you really don't want to take anything in anything of which you don't feel fairly vocally certain.  Of course, after a few sessions, by the time someone knows my voice and what I can do, I will bring in new things, things I need REAL help with.  It's never happened to me, but I hear that wrong notes will get you thrown out of coachings with several of New York's finest, so new or not new, I always do my work, and try not to make stupid mistakes.

The other thing that is totally exciting is that I'm pretty sure Joe is making dinner tonight, and I bet it will be grilled cheese.  I've got my fingers crossed.

Monday, September 03, 2012


I can't believe my beautiful Labor Day is almost over...

I look forward like crazy to days off and then have no idea what to do with myself when they come.  Without a tastk, I am kind of pathetically lost.  Okay, so I had lots of tasks-- I did laundry, made cookies, practiced, went to the grocery store, and even checked my work email, just to see if there was anything in there that was going to ruin my day Tuesday.  And I think I may have had a major break through in the tricky section in Sempre libera.  Oh yeah-- that's the whole thing.  But anyway.

My lesson was great!  I'm starting to learn that when you are open to being led by the things that happen "coincidentally," and you often end up in a really good place, just by believing that when something is right, it really just goes.  There is little heartache or work involved in "making it happen."

Now I start my work on allowing, instead of making.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The wheels on the bus

It's a little after 8 am and I'm on board a Megabus bound for NYC.  I seriously considered driving, but my smart husband talked me out of it as it is certainly more expensive to drive, and since my only drawback really with bus travel has been the grody factor, well...when it's a difference of almost a hundred bucks...

I looked for a ticket on Bolt Bus late Tuesday night only to find that, oh yeah, it's a holiday weekend and it was cold sold out.  Megabus wasn't, and so far, it's been a way more civilized experience, I have to admit.  Well, except for an hour ago when the bus driver pulled over saying he was "losing power" and needed to turn the bus off and then back on again??? Yikes.  When shit goes down on the Bolt Bus there is an audible uproar, but I noted that when the driver made his announcement there was a kind of quiet hopeful resignation and no angry exclamations.  I had mine all prepared but didn't get to use it, because everyone was being so sweet.  But so far, we're really doing well, and I'm almost stress free going into this whole first lesson scenario. Oh, and another thing is that no one has their iPod turned up too loud.  I'm shocked.

I got to spend some time Thursday night with my dear mentor and her husband, who had been at my teacher's memorial service.  I hadn't been able to attend, but we talked about it and I got a full report that made me feel nearly like I had been there.  She made a spread, including a beef tenderloin that was perfect and reminded me only too acutely by contrast of the one I ruined by over cooking it for the dinner party I gave this summer.  We talked a lot about lots of things, but prompted by the loss of our friend, we spent a lot of time telling each other how much we love and appreciate one another, because I still feel like I hadn't said it enough to Thom.  She hugged me and kissed me, which felt good, because I guess I have to be honest and say I miss that motherly energy in my life.  My mom is a lot of things, but a hugger  and kisser she is not.

On the ride, beside looking at twitter and Facebook and wasting my phone battery, I've of course been reading a new book called Skios by Michael Frayn.  It's really wild at the moment and I don't know what else to say but that I'm enjoying it.

Well, we're just getting into New Jersey, that best of all possible states.  Wish us luck.